Climate Crisis

Climate change is the greatest threat to human life. Perhaps it’s even the greatest threat ever in the history of human existence. World temperature is rising at an unprecedented rate, resulting in droughts, sea level rising, forest fires, etc. which are taking place more frequently, impacting our environment and human lives.

Climate change is a global emergency, it’s just that simple to understand and isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a moral one and it’s the time to work together to take action to protect our planet.

We have known for a long time that the climate crisis is threatening our lives badly in every possible way and that it needs to be treated like the emergency it is. Now we need world leaders who believe in science and who should fight to protect our planet for future generations from the dangers of this climate crisis. Educating ourselves on this climate crisis is one of the most important steps in taking action. It’s not yet too late to educate ourselves on the facts of this global climate crisis, my friends. Let’s each do our own part from now on, to protect our planet from further destruction.

Let’s save our precious planet and make it the safest home possible for our future generations. Please, let’s not think, ‘Climate Change’ as an individual problem of any country or nation. This is a global phenomenon. To effectively face this crisis, we have to act as global citizens in every part of the world from now on.

This blog post acts as a prism reflecting callous realities and visual metaphors of the worldwide issues of climate change. Every photograph reveals the bare bones of the impact of climate disasters on populations and environments causing irreversible damage to life as we know it forever.

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“Climate change does not respect border; it does not respect who you are – rich and poor, small and big. Therefore, this is what we call ‘global challenges,’ which require global solidarity”

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“Climate change is happening, humans are causing it, and I think this is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing us.”

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“Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.”

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“There’s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren’t for our lungs there’d be no place to put it all.”

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“Due to sea-level rise projected throughout the 21st century and beyond, coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion.”

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“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”

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“Some species will adapt to new climates. Those that cannot adapt sufficiently fast will decrease in abundance or go extinct in part or all of their ranges.”

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“The greatest gift this generation can give future generations is a HEALTHY PLANET.”

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“Climate change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather. In reality, it is about changes in our very way of life.” – Paul Polman”

Shaha Ali (60), a resident of Sariyakandi sits on the banks of the Jamuma River where his house once stood before the eroding river banks caused it to collapse (1)

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“One of the biggest obstacles to making a start on climate change is that it has become a cliche before it has even been understood”

A woman stands beside the River Jamuna where erosion is eating into its banks.

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“The environment will continue to deteriorate until pollution practices are abandoned.”

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GMB AKASH

Photojournalist & writer, received over 100 international Awards, speaker at TEDxPorto and TEDxHyderabad.

For more stories and photos please visit:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/gmbakash

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Worst floods in years ‘submerge’ Bangladesh villages 2019

During the past weeks, Bangladesh has been experiencing the consequences of the worst flooding in 100 years which rapidly displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Millions of people are still at risk from the lack of food, clean water, shelter, hygienic facilities, telecommunication, electricity, and usable roads along with the threat of waterborne diseases. Many villages have been cut off completely, marooned and inundated by water. Hundreds of thousands have had major damage to their homes or lost them completely in the flood waters. Thousands of schools have been damaged or re-purposed to shelter flood victims.

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I first headed to the flood affected area of Kurigram where all the villages were under water within three days of flooding and had lost all communication. By the time I reached Gaibandha, the sun was setting. I was surviving in a boat and could not see any ground surface upon which to stand even for a short while. That evening, along with the drowning sun, this village was also drowning under water. People were sheltered above water on the roofs of their formerly intact houses. The moaning of old people and the crying of children were making the atmosphere morose. When I reached the house of Afroza begum I shut my eyes. It took two years to rebuild the house of Khadeza after she sold all her cattle as well as taking out huge loans. I was standing in front of her ruined home; a house which had been rebuilt during the last two years.  I could not reply to her anguish while she was hitting me and asking me why I came to take photos and why no one is helping them. No one came to ask them ever how they are managing to fight against the will of nature. She cursed all those happy people who sat silently and motionless in their homes after hearing the villagers’ tragic news.

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I was on the scene in four rural areas for 5 days last week trying to assist people and working. I was in an almost completely underwater village where people had been trying to live on very limited high ground above the water for the previous 12 days. They were placing themselves along the roads and on whatever they could find to stay above the flood water. They were suffering like deserted prisoners in a devastated water kingdom. Their helpless shouts were not getting into the ears of the rest of the people in the surrounding area, nor into the ears of the rest of the country, nor into those ears around the world.

In all the places I went to, there was flood water but not a single drop of clean drinking water. Even my team and I were facing problems to find clean drinking water and food. Inhabitants were collecting water after walking kilometer after kilometer in waist-deep flood water or by boat because all water tube wells were under water and badly affected by the polluted flood water.

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Sajeda Begum said, “I am 55 years old but in all my lifetime I have never experienced this kind of devastating flood!” After facing this catastrophic flood this year they are still fighting to stay alive.

After encountering the ravages caused by the force of nature and the bravery of these suffering villagers whose lives were now underwater, I realized that these people, involuntarily separated from the rest of the country, are stronger than most people and could rule over their own lives when necessary. If these courageous people could get even the support of a shoulder of the more fortunate amongst us to cry on, the rest of us could at least claim to be ‘Human’. If they receive some aid from disaster relief entities, it is only then that our society could claim to be a part of ‘Humanity’.

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Faruk Bepari told me, “Nobody gives us even a single glass of water, not even a small packet of salt. Our children are sick and hungry. Our house went under water; we have been living on part of this elevated road for the last 5 days. We have no one; only God knows what is waiting for us.”

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Last week, while a village was still in shock from the frenzy of the floods and still wading in deep water, my team and I managed to cook food for 500 flood victims. It was one of the most difficult challenges anyone organising without any infrastructure, to cook for a large number of victims in the worse flood devastated conditions that one could imagine. Everything had to be done on the only surface left above water in that village which was the roof of the village school. It was very difficult to cook and distribute the food because there was no dry place to gather all 500 people. It seemed to be an insurmountable and an almost impossible challenge, but we did it. Everything is possible when we do it from our soul.

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I listened to the tragic stories of the misery to which the people have been subjected, some of which I am telling you here along with some photographs and a video. The reality of the impact of this disaster on these people will certainly melt your heart.

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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Dear friends,  my team and I managed to cook food for 500 flood victims. It was one of the most difficult challenges anyone organising or cooking could imagine. Everything had to be done on this single school roof, the only surface left above water. It was very difficult to distribute the food because there was no dry place to gather all 500 people. So it was almost impossible work. But we did it. Everything is possible if we do it from our soul.

Please keep these people and me in your prayers.

GMB AKASH

Photojournalist & writer, received over 100 international Awards, speaker at TEDxPorto and TEDxHyderabad.

For more stories and photos please visit:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/gmbakash

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Photography Workshop: www.gmbakashworkshop.com

Superheroes of Our Lives

A father is the most ordinary man who through love turned into a superhero! A superhero who grants all our wishes, supports us in our lives when the going gets tough and gives us a shoulder to cry on. For us he does everything! Who is always there to spoiled us with value and etiquette!. The one who motivates us to achieve our every dream by being our strong support system! The one who always stands like a big wall between us and the world when it tries to pull us down.

The only thing he will ask in return is our smiling face! He surely made us believe every person in himself is a superhero. A superhero we look up to no matter how tall we grow or how old we become, we still miss him when he’s not there.

Who needs imaginary superheroes when we have our fathers.

This is a tribute post to all fathers around the world. Although one day is not enough to honor these ‘Superheroes of our lives’, it is with respect and love that I’m publishing it to wish all fathers a very Happy Father’s Day.

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

 

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No sir, I am not the boss of our house. Now my elder daughter is the boss of my family.

Last week when she wanted to join the annual swimming competition at her school, her mother wouldn’t allow her to because she was afraid of people’s negative criticism and said, “What will people say seeing your 13-year-old girl swimming in the pond wearing her frock!?” That day, my daughter was crying the whole morning sitting in front of the door and her mother was completely ignoring her weeping! But I couldn’t ignore it. I gave my only t-shirt and towel to her while showing it to her mother and said, “Don’t come home again if you can’t win the race!” I knew she would win the race, because for the last month I have been observing her swimming near the pond competing with other girls of our slum and she was winning. That evening she returned home with 3 new plates as the winner’s prize. She had won all three different swimming races! I can’t tell you how proud I felt when she showed me my name on those certificates as the winner’s father. We are four members in our family.

Now my two daughters and I eat on our new plates. We didn’t share our new plates with her mother. This is her punishment until next year when she gives her permission to our daughter to participate in the competition again. She should learn that other people never want to see the best sides of others. So I am trying to make my wife understand that not caring about and even ignoring what people say about our girls is the best choice we can ever make.


_Manik Mia

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I found out I was wrong my whole life. Throughout my life, I have been running behind a mirage: the mirage of winning and for winning everything, we need money! My whole childhood I saw that without money nothing happens, and no one cares about you, so I wanted to make money!

I am a day laborer and I never could give my family the basic necessities in their lives because whatever I used to earn I used it to buy lottery tickets!
I was so deeply involved in the process of becoming rich in an easy way to the point that buying lottery tickets was the only passion in my life. The more I was careless about my family the more I was up to date about the date of my lottery publication!

I can even remember all the lottery numbers I have ever bought all these years. All my life I have dreamed about winning lotteries! Every day I prayed about and imagined having my name being pulled out of the lottery box!

I have a son but I do not even know who admitted my son into school. I don’t know who took him to the school on his first day or even when he finished his primary level!But I remember, I have always scolded my wife saying “what is the point of going to school for poor people”? I told her several times to tell him to stop going to school and start working with us full time. But she never listened to me.

I had never noticed how time had passed so quickly in my life. But I noticed how hopeless I was becoming by losing the lottery with every ticket! I feel very ashamed when I remember about that day, how insanely I had beaten my son for stealing money for his JSC examination fees that I was saving to buy lottery tickets again.

After that day he didn’t talk to me for months. One day, after coming back from school, my son suddenly gave me a hug for the first time in his life and put his first 800 taka scholarship in my hand! And for the first time I realized, what love is! I realized what the real-life lottery is!

After that day I never bought a single lottery ticket ever again, instead I helped my son with his studies. Sir, he is doing his HSC and he earns his own money by doing tuitions. He says, “You do not have to work anymore after my graduation, Abba”. I can now understand how much he loves his parents.
He will never know how much he taught me; ‘love and success is never a lottery which we can’t win, we earn it with our everyday struggles and passion’!

_Motaleb

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My daughter’s hair was very long. Every morning before I went to the field I combed her hair. Even when she was thirteen years old, I combed her hair. She brought our lunch to the field every afternoon. During Hut day I took her with me to buy little things for our house. Once she bought a mud bank where we saved money for floods. I can clearly remember her face that day when she was sitting near my feet and cried for no reason. I asked her several times what had happened. She hesitantly said she had a fever. I went to the village doctor for medicine. And when I returned, she was gone. My dinner was covered and the mud bank was on my bed. I searched for my girl everywhere, in every house of our village. I thought maybe she was angry with me for some reason or maybe she went somewhere to bring something for the kitchen. Everyone tried to shame me, but I did not feel shame. I was very afraid for my only daughter. When I found out she flew with a boy, I did not trust that. And I waited for her every day. I cannot remember the last time. when I slept peacefully But years have gone by and she never returned. Now I am even more fearful for her, because I know wherever she is staying, she ought to come back to me. Villagers asked me to stop looking for her. They told me to accept that maybe something very bad had happened to her. But my heart did not give up. My heart is still traveling the whole world to find my daughter. Sometimes at night I have nightmares. I hear my daughter telling me she is suffering. I cry in my sleep. I cry and beg to God to return my daughter to me.

– Osman Ali

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My younger daughter has a great sense of humor. She tells a lot of jokes and makes us laugh all the time. The elder one is a bit slow. It takes five minutes for him to understand anything. If he goes to buy anything he will wait to ask until everyone leaves the shop with all their goods. My wife is worried for the elder one most. Whenever they go outside together she gives the responsibility of the elder child to the younger one. My wife gave them their nicknames: Bhola and Biccu. It’s been one year since I have been able to go to the village to see them. Every day I call my children from my neighbor’s phone just to hear their voices. I usually pay for three minutes to talk to the three of them. In those three minutes the three of them only ask when I will be returning to them. After one year I am finally with two of my children. I brought them here to spend a few days with me. They have been cuddling with me since they came. I am not going to work today; I decided to spend the whole day with my children. I usually earn one hundred taka every day. But today is a different day, I do not want to work today. I bought fresh milk and two bananas for my children. They love these things very much. We are laughing because when I asked my younger one what she wants me to buy for them. She said, ‘A pond full of milk and a banana garden!.’

_Hossain Ali

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I poured my blood and sweat into educating my son. For the last 20 years I have been carrying tons of stone on my shoulders from morning till evening in order to pay my son’s educational fees and make him a better human being. My wife and I never spend a single extra penny so that my son would not have to suffer in his college. I forgot the last time that I bought a new shirt for myself or a saree for my wife.

As a father of an undergraduate student, I believed in him and gave him everything I earned for his education. But my blind belief in him become the curse of our lives. Last year I found out that he became a serious drug addict.

There is no difference between an animal and a drug addict. Every night my son fights with me and beats his mother for money. We don’t have any belongings nowadays in our house. He has sold everything we had.

Yesterday after finishing work when I was returning home, I was feeling very thirsty. I went to a shop for a glass of water. I saw that a box of breads was looking at me. But I did not spend a single taka. For the last year, I have been saving every single taka to take my son to a rehabilitation center.

I just came from hospital to work. Last night my son took extra amounts of drugs and sleeping pills. His mother was very worried. But the doctor said they washed out his stomach thoroughly and now he will be fine soon. I asked the doctor, “We saved money to care for him, can you please wash out my son’s brain, heart and soul and everything else to make him fine and good again?” The doctor didn’t give any reply to this old uneducated father.

I am old now. I can’t take the weight of this drug addict son anymore on my shoulders. It hurts and it’s far more painful than any weight I have ever carried in all my years as a stone carrier.

_Jainal

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The night my elder brother married I was only 10 years old. I was so amazed to see the beautiful angelic bride. Everyone was visiting her like she was a queen. Shamelessly, in front of everyone, I said to my brother I will marry a beautiful girl like her! My brother and everyone laughed loudly.

After the marriage she become the favourite person of everyone in our house. She used to take care of everyone. People in our village was very jealous because of the beautiful bride. Eight years passed as in a blink and the only difference was that we got two new angelic daughters in our house as family members.

In the eighth year my brother died during a very simple fever and the scene at home started changing so fast. No one wanted my sister-in-law to stay in our house anymore. Everyone started blaming her that my brother had died. Lots of her faults were suddenly coming out of everyone’s mouths after eight years! Everyone was blaming her, saying that she is cursed and that even her shadow is also ominous for us now. They accused her of being a husband eater. My parents told her to leave the house. She looked in my eyes I saw a worried mother helplessly looking at everyone. At the age of 20 I took a big decision to take the responsibility of her and her two little girls. I said I wanted to marry her.

Everyone looked at me like suddenly they discovered a ghost in front of them. No one agreed when I wanted to marry a widow. My mother cried out and said, “She will eat you too!!” My father wanted to throw me out with them but I didn’t changed my decision to take the responsibility of the woman who is 10 years older than me. Holding two daughters with two hands I left my father’s home 40 years ago.

I don’t believe that only giving birth makes you a good father or mother! For the last 40 years I have been the father of my two daughters. I tried my best to become their father. Everyone says that they look exactly like me. This makes me happy. In my childhood everyone used to say I looked like my elder brother!
In my life I took only one right decision and that was to marry that widow! During my whole my life she loved me more than I love myself and gave me two beautiful angelic daughters; caring daughters who don’t understand anything else except their father.
I am very happy today I became a grandfather this morning! It’s a boy! My daughters named my grandson with my name ‘Mostofa’. Lots of guests come to see Mostofa in our home. I am here to buy some packets of sweets for the guests.

_Mostofa

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When we are able to cook something good, I always hide it from my wife, Buri, and take some to my son. In the moment, it is impossible to stop thinking about my son, Afjal. But Buri always catches me when I go to my son’s house to give them food. My son lives separately, opposite our house, with his wife and son.

Last week I caught a big fish from our Kaliganga River. I can’t remember the last time we ate a large fish. Nowadays I can’t go fishing due to my chronic health condition and cold I’ve had for a while. At my age, I am not able to do any work. Sometimes my wife and I go fishing together. Most times we catch a few tiny fish and then collect vegetables from the riverbank. This is how we’ve been surviving for the last few years.

After cooking that big fish, I secretly tried to take two large pieces to my son, but my wife caught me and started yelling at me.

“You have no shame! When will you feel some shame? They never send anything to you; they never visit you for months. Why do you need to share with them every time I cook something nice for you?”

Yes I feel shame. I feel terrible shame at lunchtimes when I smell chicken or beef being cooked at my son’s house. At those times my wife looks me in the eyes and I am unable to swallow my food. She knows that I love to eat chicken and beef. My son and his wife never share anything with us. Afjal never cares how his mother and father are surviving in their old age, all alone. And we live just steps away from their house.

But I have no regrets. I always pray to Allah that my son and his family will have a wonderful, blissful life – that they should never suffer for want of food or love. I pray too that when they are old, their children will love them, unconditionally.

_Amser Mia (80 years old)

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During our whole marriage, we always wanted a boy. We have three daughters. We gave up hope for a son or for any other children because of our age. But in our old age God give us a son as a gift. I was very ashamed and at the same time very happy when he was born. His sisters gave him his name “Rajkumar” because of his beauty. He is very much younger compared to my age. People used to make fun of me when I used to take him with me to the market calling out, “Why do you bring your grandson with you?” He became my cane in my old age. He was everywhere helping me with my work. I used to look at him surprisingly and used to pray for him to God to please protect him from bad eyes.

He wanted to go to Dhaka to work four years with his friends. I was not agreeing with my wife. I asked her why he needs to go to Dhaka to work when we have everything! But his mother gave the permission and that permission brought tragedy into our lives.

When he called me ‘abba’(father) when returning home after only one year, I couldn’t recognize my ‘Prince’. I was astonished as if looking at a stranger. He was looking very ill and unhealthy! I started crying holding him and yelling to my wife that I don’t need money. I will not let him work anymore.

Like thousands of uneducated parents, I also knew almost nothing about drug use, needles, phensedyl, a codeine medicine, nor addiction. I realized the truth when he started stealing and selling everything we have. He started stealing from our neighbors and everywhere. I thought marrying him off would make everything normal. But nothing worked. We lost our respect, our peace, and our wealth. We lost everything for him. We couldn’t sleep at night. One night he hit me and hit his mother to take money. He was out of control for everything. I tried to control him with my love and anger. But there’s no such thing as control when it comes to addiction. And it takes only one person’s addiction to destroy a whole family. We became more and more worried because he was dying every day. After three years of staying in the village he was just getting worse and he also became the father of a newborn son.

In the middle of one night last year he came into my room. I was very scared seeing him in my room. But in a very mild voice, holding my hand he said; “Abba, please help me; please save my life. My newborn son called me ‘abba’ tonight for the first time.” When my son looks at me he doesn’t see a junkie, he sees his father,He holds my fingers tightly and pleads, “Abba, I want to live!”

‌‘Robi’, my cow, is like another son to me. He has been helping with my farming for the last 4 years. I never wanted to sell him. I don’t know how I will sell this “second son” for saving the life of my other son. I Have not eaten anything since yesterday morning. Whenever I think about selling Robi, I can’t hold back my tears! But I have no other option to save my ill child. I have nothing left for my son’s treatments anymore. I came here to sell my last bit of wealth to continue my son’s treatments. And I want to make it possible for him to be with me during the next Eid Celebration and not in his grave. I want to bring him back from death. I can’t let my child die in front of my eyes!

_Fotik Bepari

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I and my wife, Khalecha always wanted to have a daughter. We married 35 years ago. But every time we had a son. We have four sons and after that we gave up trying for a daughter. My four sons also have four sons which mean I have only four grandsons. Not a single granddaughter!

I am working as a village policeman for the last 30 years. My father, Hossain Ali also was a village policeman. After his death I got this job.I started with 220 taka salary and now my salary is 3200 taka. With this salary it is very difficult to run my family. So I also work in my field when I get free time.
I have great feelings for having a daughter. I lost my mother when I was very young. I wanted a daughter my whole my life so that I can call her “maa”. Maybe that is the reason I have great affection for daughters.

Several times I saved school-going girls from evil teasing by bad boys. One evening while I was coming from the field suddenly I saw a girl running to the river and then she jumped into the river water. For a second I couldn’t think and then in my mind there was only one thing: I had to rescue her. So I dove into the dark water and saved her. Then I took her to her parents’ home. She had fought with her husband and wanted to kill herself.

The next morning I arranged a meeting with both sets of parents and solved their problems. From that day Sheuli has been calling me father. I finally got my daughter after 29 years of waiting!

_Hamidul Islam, 70

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© GMB Akash / http://www.gmb-akash.com

I have been cheated my whole life by my wife. She left me 20 years ago. Every second during these long years afterwards, I have been realizing how badly she cheated me. My only son always yells and complains about me, “Why doesn’t this old man die?”He thinks I don’t hear properly, but I hear! I Always ask God why he doesn’t listen to my prayers and take me to him out of this world?

Last week I was very sick. After several times of calling, my son entered my room in the afternoon. I wanted his help to get down from my bed to eat my lunch. When he held me to get down; I also held onto his shoulder tightly for support. It felt very comforting to me to give my weight to him. I can’t walk properly anymore at the age of100 years. After helping me my son started shouting and yelling again. He was telling his wife, “Never help him to walk; he is just acting and he can walk by himself.” After that, I couldn’t eat.

I remember when my son was only 5 years old. He loved food and was healthy. One day he was crying for some sweets to eat. I took him on my shoulders and walked the entire length of the sand island which is almost 10 miles long, to reach to our village sweetshop to feed him sweets. When he was eating and smiling at me, I forgot how far that whole way was walking in the sand and carrying him on my shoulders.

This world is very selfish. As my wife was.Otherwise, she could never have left me here in this cruel world alone. My wife always used to pray to God, “Please God,take me to you before you take my husband!” I never understood why she did that! I never felt so helpless as I have been feeling these last 20 years after her death. I never knew how ugly and cruel this world was before her death!

My wife betrayed me! She kept a beautiful screen of this world over my eyes all the time. She convinced me how humane this world is. From her, during my whole life, I believed this world was kind and selfless. She never let me know about the ugliness of this world. She betrayed me; because of her I never knew how unkind, selfish, cruel and ugly this world is!

_Nizam Uddin, 100

GMB AKASH

Photojournalist & writer, received over 100 international Awards, speaker at TEDxPorto and TEDxHyderabad.

For more stories and photos please visit:

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The Mru: A hidden Tribe of Bangladesh.

I have spent weeks in the Bandarban district, one of the three tribal populated Chittagong Hill Tract districts, in southeastern Bangladesh. I went to meet the largest hidden Mru tribe and to also visit the most remote indigenous group of Murongs, the fourth largest hidden tribe in the area.

Their smiling and welcoming faces as well as the extraordinary hospitality of my friend’s family with whom I was living, made an ever-lasting impression upon me about this hidden tribe.

I learned from the tribe, how someone could live life and still enjoy every second of it despite the seemingly unsurmountable limitations. Without a doubt, the Mru are a very distinctive and unique people and when I took the time to get to know them and to document them, I found an exceptionally rewarding experience for myself.

I have always found that it is the people who make a place come alive and provide new completely different and unimaginable experiences for the visitor who is fortunate enough to meet them. I felt like an honored guest of these exceptional people and I would like to pay a tribute here of some of the people I encountered by sharing their unconventional lives and photographs with you.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The solitary, independent and peace-loving Mru people have lived in the Hill Tract of southeastern Bangladesh and western Burma for centuries – their small population being split almost in half by the border. Many scholars believe them to be the original inhabitants of the region. Mru prefer to live on the remote hilltops; even away from other hill tribes. Their villages are easily distinguished by sacred bamboo totems, presided over by guardian spirits.

Mro (Mru) villagers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The Mru people are also known as the as Mro or Murong. The Mru people introduce themselves as Mro-cha. The word ‘Mro’ means ‘man’ and ‘cha’ stands for ‘being’.

They have Mongoloid features but are tall and strong with dark complexions. They are peaceful and timid. Physically, they closely resemble the Semang of Malaysia.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

Mru are very egalitarian and have no castes and few hereditary positions. They are extremely non-confrontational and take pride in being patient and peaceful. Each household has an equal voice in all village affairs. They are one of the few indigenous peoples who have staunchly retained their own unique culture, rituals and beliefs. With no functional leadership or hierarchies, this lack of higher-level social organization makes it difficult from them to avail of, or cooperate in joint efforts for ‘development’ or cultural preservation. Thus, they are one of the least ‘modern’ of all the hill tribes, consciously preserving their distinct lifestyle. Mru are especially known for their mystical music, ascetic dress, exotic appearance and long, flower-adorned hair kept in topknots. Curiously, mru have no sense of being ‘tribal’ as do other indigenous peoples. They consider themselves just ordinary floks. Mru value their independence above all else, just desiring to pursue a traditional lifestyle free from domination or exploitation.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The Mru are a very poor people. Although they inhabit a region that is rich in lumber and hydroelectric potential, the villagers lack the technology and knowledge to improve their economic conditions.

But the Mru excuse their poverty because they believe that Torai (the god) intended them to live this way. At the same time, they pride themselves in their self-sufficiency.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The Mro society is patriarchal. Although the father is the head of the family, women play a dominant role in social life. They depend mainly on hunting but many of them are engaged in Jhum cultivation.

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In addition to farming, many of the Mru men are skilled in producing bamboo items. Mru women are especially fond of wearing jewelry and other ornaments made by local craftsmen. Most Murongs are Buddhists although some are Christian converts.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

‘Mothers: Angels on Earth’

“God can’t be everywhere and therefore, he created Mothers! ” _ Rudyard Kipling

Mothers are God’s angels on earth whose prayers always follow us wherever we are! They are the guardian angels for us, in whose arms we feel the safest. Mothers are the only ones whose smell we can never forget. On their faces we find the warmest smiles that can wash away thousands of sorrows for us. In our mothers’ hearts we never grow up and we never grow old!

No words can define those precious women, our mothers, who give us all the love that anyone could possibly give and they give it unconditionally.

To honour all these ‘angels’ of our lives, I have gathered stories for my blog post which I am dedicating to all mothers on this Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to my treasured angelic friends.

I am sharing with you few heart-warming real-life stories of mothers, Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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No one thought my daughter could survive. I conceived after ten years of our marriage. When my daughter was born three months earlier than my delivery date, she was very premature. Everyone wanted to take her from me in the village. They told me that I should not get attached to my baby. They warned me that it will cause me severe heartbreak. I screamed at my people and my husband asked them to leave us alone. He told me that he would take us anywhere to save our child. I know from my heart that I could never lose her. No one knew that I got her in my dream; she was inside of me many years ago even before she existed. She was not new to me. I saw her face and felt I knew my child; there can be no other face but her’s. We arrived in the city. For six months my husband and I did not sleep. We did not close our eyes. My daughter was not able to breathe properly and I kept her in my lap all night long. My husband sold his rickshaw for us. Whenever her condition got worse, I held my baby to my chest and whispered in her ears not to leave me. I told her how many years I waited for her. I told her how much we loved her, how much we needed her in our lives. My husband was always silent. But he looked at her wide face and called her Moon. I told him it’s a girl so it’s better to call her Moonlight. And our love survived. Now my daughter is five years old. I can remember how I prayed to God to let my child stay with me and to take away everything else I had. I have got my daughter; her smile is enough to keep my world alive.

_Asma with her daughter Chadni (5)

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Appreciate the food your mother cooks for you. Some don’t have food, others don’t have mothers.

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Worrying is a waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal your peace and distract from your focus.The day I adopted a five-year-old Hindu orphan boy, I was very worried. Everyone yelled at me. My husband wanted to leave me! But you know what, after 30 years of that day my husband died taking my Hindu boys’ hand on his chest. Because of my Hindu boy I have never had to be worried again about anything in my life. My boy builds a Madrasah for orphan children. There are 15-20 children living and getting education from the Madrasah there. Though I have four more children people call me Krishna’s Mother. I feel proud and respected.
After growing up, Krishna always took care of us. So much so that our own children did not even have to take care for us although they were loved by us and they loved us also. Krishna used to take care of his father when he was sick in bed! He used to tell me every day, “My mother and father are my heaven. In my next life, I only want to be your son!”
I have learned, life is like a pottery bank, you get everything back what you’ve put in. I loved him and got his love back for my whole my life. I am a happy person. During my whole life according to my ability, I wanted to do good for people. And I believe, doing good for people and knowing you are doing good makes a fine pillow for your old age.

_Julekha Begum

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“A mother is the only person on Earth who loves you more than she loves herself.”

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A mother’s love for her child never ends. After my husband’s death, my son was the only umbrella over my head. He was everything to me; my son, my friend, my caregiver, everything.

Last year he died on my lap. No one will understand the pain of seeing the lifeless face of their own child. I pray to God no mother shall have to bury their children before them. It’s been almost one year.

Everyone said, “Give it time. Time heals all wounds.” But It doesn’t heal the wounds of losing your child! Though you know they are in Heaven, the pain itself feels like Hell.

I love to eat sweets. Every day he used to say, “Maa let’s go to my shop and eat sweets”. He used to bring me to his sweet shop while holding my hands in order to feed me sweets. But I know he really brought me here in order to protect me from loneliness. I used to sit in his shop with him. People used to laugh but he never cared.

My son died in his sixtieth last year. Now, during the whole day I roam around his sweet shop. I know I will never see my son again. Even though I can’t walk properly, I can’t stop myself from coming here every day to retain his memory.Sometimes I sit the entire day in front of his shop.

My eyes always search for him. After his birth, all my life I never felt alone nor neglected for a second ever again. Now I am so scared of my future without him. My heart longs for his care, for his company, to be around him for my safety and to not feel lonely. After his death, I never felt alive again. A part of my life went with him. I search for him on everyone I see around me. The death of a child is like losing your breath and never catching it again.

_Milon Mala

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“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.”

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‘I lost many things in my life and by standing at the end of my life, now I can tell you, how I gained everything what I had lost.

My husband died when during flood, a tree had fallen on him. I was standing just ten feet away from him in water. That night, I was seven months pregnant. After losing my husband, my house and everything I had, I felt to commit suicide. But I became mother after waiting for twelve years for a child. I had to survive for my child, so I came to city to search for work. After so many struggles I gave birth to my son, midwife told me, my son had problem and asked me to be prepared for his death. When he died after seven days, I had no one beside me and had no money. Even if you die you need money but no one came forward to help me. Only some orphan-street children gave me money, so I could do his last work. After buried him when I return to my hut, I didn’t cry. From that day, I no longer look behind what I had lost. Since the day, for thirty years, I had feed one orphan each day from my food. I lost my child but I kept giving the portion of his love to every miserable child I met on my way.

Last five years, I am suffering from tuberculosis and heart problems. Now all those orphan children grew up and taking care of me. I lost one child but now I have hundred’

_Maa Asha

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“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.” – Mitch Albom

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My son’s marriage is going to held next week. He bought gold ornaments for his new bride. But last night he very much surprised me by showing me the new gold jewelry set he bought for me! This is the happiest day in my life. I had to sell all my jewelry to survive with my 5 children for years after the death of my husband.

I had to sell my bangles that I started using after my marriage as well as my earrings that I got from my father and even the nose pin that carries the symbols of my husband.

Life was very hard for years after years. I started to battle for my 5 children. The battle was all about having some food to feed them. I worked at some people’s house as a maid. They used to give me a half kg of rice after a whole day work and after coming back home I used to cook this rice. Sitting around on the floor I used to feed them from one bowl with my own hand so that I could feed them equally.

We used to live in a room made of cane and it was badly broken-down. I had to spend night after night not sleeping to protect my girls from evil people.

I could not send my daughters to school! When feeding 5 children everyday was already the biggest challenge, how could I send them to school? Even I could not provide any clothes for my 4 daughters. They used to wear used clothes given by the family I was working for. They could not go to school wearing old ragged cloths. In very difficult circumstances I managed to marry off all my daughters. Every day my life was a struggle to find the necessities of survival. I continued to struggle without any hope of light.

But I never could stop the education of my son. He was very interested in his studies. He continued his school wearing my blouse and even his elder sister’s pajamas.

Only his invincible desire for changing our fate and becoming educated changed our lives from night to day. For the last 10 years after finishing his education he has been working abroad. There was a time when I did not have even 10 taka cash in my hands. Now I count thousands of taka every month.

One day when my son was young, I gave him some cold rice with Salt before his school and he asked me, “Don’t we have anything else?” I replied, “Grow up and buy a fridge for me so that I can keep everything you want in it!” With his first salary, my son bought me a fridge. Furthermore, he brought electricity into our home. Never in my wildest dreams did I think of enjoying the delight of electric light in our house. He even bought a colour TV which makes me feel very shy when I watch it.

In my life after struggling so much, I learned one thing: just working hard or getting an education is not enough. One has to carry the invincible desire to change the lives of their loved ones.

_Koyer jaan

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Who needs superheroes when I have my mother?

Women in Bangladesh

“Sometimes the strongest women are the ones who love beyond all faults, who cry behind closed doors, and who fight battles that nobody knows about. This blog post is dedicated to honouring women who are living at the edge of the society and who continue their fighting to earn food and dignity but who rarely ever come into the world’s limelight. Even the society in which they are living has never appreciated their bravery. I have met with many of them, discovering up close how women have worked for the greater good and have brought about change in their families and society. This is a way to pay tribute to a mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend and the many roles a woman plays in her life. These personalities have taught me that nothing can kill the spirit of a woman and that is what makes her so incredibly beautiful” – GMB Akash

“It’s hard to be a woman. You must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl, and work like a horse.”

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“A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.” – Marge Percy

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“Don’t be the girl who fell. Be the girl who got back up.” – Jenette Stanley

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“You have what it takes to be victorious, independent, fearless woman.” -Tyra Banks

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“Never apologize for being a powerful woman.”

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“There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.”     

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“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.”

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“When a woman rises up in glory, her energy is magnetic and her sense of possibility contagious.” -Marianne Williamson

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“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”

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“Women today are their own heroes. The power to change their lives lies within them.”

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“I am proud of the woman I am today, because I went through one hell of a time becoming her.”

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However well accomplished a woman may be, she tends to take on guilt and responsibility more easily than a man. Oftentimes, she is conditioned to believe that everyone and everything is her responsibility. Sometimes, she forgets that she has a responsibility towards herself. Accept and love yourself because there is just one YOU!

Climate Migration in Bangladesh

Two global agreements – one focused on the protection of refugees and the other on migration – are in the final stages of negotiation between different governments, under the auspices of the United Nations.  Each offers a rare opportunity to protect migrants from one of the biggest sources of displacement today – climate change.

While the UN recognises that climate change is a cause for migration, countries are under no legal obligation to protect the rights of those affected by its consequences.

Through the following stories and photos, we are taken into the lives of mainly Bangladeshi women who are survivors of climate-induced migration. It is the ultimate display of human resistance.

Over the next few decades, scientists expect 17 percent of the country’s land to be submerged, and 18 million Bangladeshis to be displaced by seas. The country regularly suffers from deadly and devastating flooding, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts.

When a land that has been a people’s home for centuries disappears or becomes uninhabitable, through no fault of those who live there, what choices do they have and where can they go? These are questions that the international community currently have no answers for—and that’s neither fair nor just.

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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I have always known that ‘water is life’ but this water has been killing us for the last 10 years. This water never gives us any peace. I am from a coastal village. We moved here because of yearly river erosion. If there is a fire in your house, only the house gets burned; the land remains.  But when there is river erosion, everything is lost. We lost everything  six times while living in my father-in-law’s house after our marriage . We have nothing left now. We came here and started life with only a few clothes and took out a 2000 taka loan from my sister-in-law.

Life is very hard here and our poverty is only increasing. We are waterlogged for almost the entire year.  We have thousands of problems here. Which one should I tell you about and which one should I skip? Everyone here is becoming a beggar and only buys medicine for waterborne diseases for their family members. We have to spend more than we earn every day. Every night this slum becomes like a howling Hell.  All the children start crying when they go to sleep because of the pain of their infected feet caused by walking the whole day in this muddy water.  We elderly people can tolerate most pain but the innocent children don’t understand that they are poor and should not cry about pain.

 I came here with only one child and now I have 4 children. My husband is the only worker in our family. I can’t go to work leaving my children here in this unsafe slum.  I have three daughters and almost every day in our slum, girls are getting raped.

For those with only one income earner, it’s very difficult for them to maintain a family and feed six mouths daily. Life becomes painful. It’s as if we are gasping for our last breath every day.  In our village life was so beautiful like in dreams. My children have never seen a village in their entire lives. I sometimes tell them stories of my childhood and our village. They listen to me as if I am telling them fairy tales. They want to go there to visit. But there is nothing left in our village anymore except the name. Now everything is under water. I heard most of my village people moved to Dhaka already. We all know there are two things in this world, ‘Heaven and Hell’. When I was at home in my village with my neighbors and everyone else, I used to feel like I was living in Heaven. Now it feels like we are living in Hell. We have cried so much already, but you know there is no end to our crying.

_Ruby Begum

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After the flood, I lost my house for the sixth time because the river eroded. I sold my cattle and everything I had in order to rebuild my shelter last year. This year there was another devastating flood which destroyed my house again, and now staying here is another nightmare. I have no idea how I will manage to pay back all my loans while spending nights in this smashed-up house with my children.  We have been starving most of this last week. We have nowhere to go, no way to cook and most importantly nothing to cook. We live on the bank of the river in the northern part of our country. Now floods come two or three times a year and in addition, the extra water from India also comes when we don’t need it. We live in the flatlands so even in heavy rainfall this area becomes flooded. We can’t grow crops because this kind of sudden flood destroys everything throughout the year. Before the end of one year of trouble, the second year of floods begin to make us suffer again.

I never had any happy childhood moments. From the beginning of my life I have been facing extreme hunger and a washed-up future. At the age of six for the first time, I had to rebuild our destroyed house those nights; when the river took every dream we had. I was never a child again.

Two of my younger brothers died after that incident from diarrhea. There was no treatment. We could not afford to go to hospital. I have seen many deaths and diseases. Some were silent, some were miserable and some were deadly. But nothing is worse than hunger. You can fight disease but you can’t fight hunger.

I am looking forward to joining my husband in Dhaka City.  He tried for several years to make me understand that I had to leave this land and work together with him for a better future for our children. But I never listened to him as I never wanted to leave. But this time I have prepared myself to be strong. I love my land but it can’t meet the needs of my children’s hunger. My land can’t give me a respectful life. This land only can give me heartache every year with its cruelty.

I hope our endless sorrow will end one day. Hundreds of women are leaving here and going to Dhaka. I also want to get out of this open prison, this world of water where I was born, as soon as possible. I want to give my children a better life and I want them to be able to have a childhood. I don’t want them to rebuild their destroyed house again and again with a broken heart. I want them to carry their school bags every day with hearts full of hope.

home with my parents when the flood hit us. Then the river took our land. I grew up during

_ Ashma Begum

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My wife is probably not going to live much longer and I am a helpless man and unable to do anything for her. I had to leave the woman with whom I have been living for 50 years alone in that dead drought place. I came here to earn money so that I can send some money to feed her and buy her medicine. I was a farmer with land. We used to have happy and beautiful days before the drought. But now because of the drought nothing grows in our field. The drought killed everything; it killed our happiness and now it is going to kill my wife.

I have been working here for the last 2 years. I never rode a rickshaw before. When I ride this rickshaw everyday it’s very difficult and scary. But I am doing this for my Buri. She is waiting every day for me to come to her so that she can die in front of me. She is very sick and suffering from malnutrition. I don’t earn enough so it’s very difficult for me to bring her here or give her enough money for good food or medicine. She can’t even drink enough water. Where will she find fresh drinking water? She needs to walk for miles to collect drinking water. She can’t walk enough to collect drinking water every day. She lives alone in a drought-prone area on my land. All my family members including my son and daughters have moved from there to Dhaka. But no one took her with them.

We became our children’s burden. My Buri became their burden. Now no one is with her to take care of her or give her a drop of water in her mouth if she starts to die. I can’t even work properly thinking of her. I am so anguished thinking about her and I always feel worried that I might not see her again. I can’t breathe normally when I think of her condition.

I am trying with every single drop of my blood to accumulate enough money to bring her here with me so that she may die in front of me.

_ Rohomot Ali

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Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. I am Bilkis and come from a slum in Dhaka city. I used to work in a factory with my husband. I fell in love with him and I fled here with him eight years ago. For the last eight years I have seen a very different world, full of the hardships of the people on this island. Many times my husband told me he wanted me to return to the city again. But I could not leave this land and these innocent people living in this situation. For the last seven years I have been working to bring changes to their lives, a little at a time.

Every year unseasonal flash flooding and extreme river erosion make people’s lives in North Bengal impossibly miserable. Countless people lose their children and their cattle every year. People of this land live a life of uncertainty. The severity of this is increasing every year. Hundreds of people have had to leave here because they lost their houses, their land and their hope of living without a hungry stomach.

I am the only educated woman on this island.  I wanted to guide the people but rather than cooperating with me, they always wanted to create obstacles because I am an outsider. But I never lost  hope. My husband is always with me. He never interrupts my work and always supports me. He knows that I want to help these innocent villagers deal with nature’s cruelty. Seven years ago,  when I was discussing my dreams with him, my husband said “to help these poor people you need to know about the floods and the current situation. Why don’t you buy a radio?” He sold our only cow to buy the radio. And that one radio changed the situation on our island.

I used to listen to all the news regularly, mainly in the rainy season to stay informed about the flood water so I could warn my neighbors to take shelter in the highlands and save lives. The first year no one wanted to listen to me about the arriving flood waters except two families and that was the biggest out of season flood in the last 10 years. Hundreds of people became poor and had to beg. Many people lost their children and cows. It was a disaster. In the last six years I have had to move our house three times but no one from my island has lost their lives.

Women from this island never wanted to leave here and work in the city, because they believed that working alongside men was a sin. I made them understand that women can work alongside men to survive and to end their hunger. Upon understanding this, hundreds of women from this island moved to Dhaka; to Amin Bazar.

Now everyone from my island, older or younger, admires me and listens to my words. All hard and positive work pays off. I have been providing education to 10-15 girls in my yard for the last five years and gave my radio to them. Together, we made some high land on our island. Now I am prepared to leave this island with my husband and move to Dhaka city because I know now that lots of Bilkis are ready to take the responsibilities of their own land and people.

_ Bilkis Begum

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She doesn’t go to school anymore. For us, collecting water is more important than going to school now. We old people used to go to school but this new generation is becoming uneducated. But you know; education only helps when you don’t have to suffer for basic needs like food and water. Now staying alive every day is the biggest fight in our lives.

Every day here in this coastal area we have to face different problems. But the biggest problem is the lack of life saving fresh water. Water is life and we have an abundance of water everywhere, but for a bucket of drinking water we have to travel miles and miles or cross this river. We don’t get adequate sweet water for drinking or to use for ourselves. Our kids are wasting all their time collecting water for their families. We cannot remember the last time we took a shower in fresh water. Fresh water is now the priceless treasure in our lives. I passed my SSC education, but my children are illiterate. Like mine all the children of our villagers are becoming illiterate only because they waste their time collecting water. School will not save their lives when they need drinking water to quench their thirst and that of their families.

We are going to collect water. It takes a lot of time to reach the pond from where we collect water and then we have to line up for taking water from the pond which takes a lot more time and then return home. The pond is also getting drier day after day. Sometimes the owner of the pond doesn’t allow us to take water from there. We have another water source on our island which is a 12-mile walk. Our children are becoming sick and exhausted from collecting water every day from different places.

Only during monsoons can we collect water easily from the roof of our house with thin plastic sheets. But monsoon season is also our biggest fear. Our house is just on the edge of the dam and every night we go to sleep afraid that it could disappear with a surge of water at anytime.

We used to fish in fresh-water and earn enough to feed our family, but now there is nothing except salt water. It comes inland up our rivers where it stagnates. We can’t earn enough money as there are no jobs. Salt water has devoured our place such that we can’t grow anything on our land. We can’t even raise cattle because they too need fresh water to drink. Our income source is low considering the situation of price hikes. I cannot buy any vegetables or meat for my 75-year-old mother or my children. We are becoming the workless and the poor as well as beggars.  Our daily lives became a deserted life after the cyclone. Life seems so helpless here. Thousands of people are leaving this island because of these problems. But I can’t leave my elderly mother and she doesn’t want to leave this land. She would die starving and thirsty here but still she will not leave this land.

_ Hamida Begum

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My children ask me all the time why we have to move from one island to another. I have no answer.  I also ask Allah the same question every day. My home has been taken by the river six times. A few days ago, we moved to this island and made our seventh home. On this remote island my husband can only go fishing. Last night my five hungry children were freezing in the cold. To fight the chilly wind we embraced each other and their father kept reciting the Quran. If my husband can catch a fish, we can survive another day.

We fear the future and fight for today. As we are poor we don’t know what we will eat the next day. We had some land from where we used to get some paddy every year. But this year it is now in the middle of the river. We have no hope for paddy or rice this year. Only by the grace of Allah do we not have the problem of drinking water. For many days we have been only drinking water from the river to survive.

The river took everything from us; now we have nothing left. How can I make you understand how we are living our unbearable lives every day? I was once so fond of my village from my childhood, but this cursed land and cruel river is killing me and my family every day. I don’t want to live on this land anymore; not for a single day. But I have nowhere to go; I have not a single penny to move from this cursed land. On this island only two families live with us and they are also surviving like we are surviving; fighting all odds against us.

There is not a single person to help me. I wanted a loan from one of my brothers who lives outside of this town who came to visit us last year. But he refused to help; saying he is also having a lot of problems and he didn’t believe that I could refund his loan! He asked me, “How will you refund my money?” I could not answer his question!

No one believes in poor people, not even a brother from the same mother.

I feel hopeless as Hell nowadays. I have never gone anywhere away from this land and don’t know what I could do to survive with my whole family. I am in the middle of nowhere and finding no way to get out of this problem.

When my children get sick sometimes, except for crying and asking help from God, I can’t do anything for them. I don’t know how many days we can live here like this? How many days we can live hungry and fight this hostile nature and weather. I don’t know how our miserable days will end or if they will ever end or not!

_ Khodeja

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How can I possibly make you understand what a big sin I have committed? I don’t know if Allah will forgive me or not but I am sure my child will not forgive me. My family members will not forgive me as I can’t forgive myself. I had to sell my 6-year-old son to a man in order to survive with my other two children and my husband. To save 4 more lives, I had to make the most devastating decision of my life. We had one little piece of land to cultivate that we had to sell 4 years back for very little money. After cyclone Aila, nothing grows on our land anymore so no one wanted to buy it for a fair price. My husband and I, are both used to cultivating fish in our own fishery. That was the only work and income source for us.

But after cyclone Aila, there was no sweet water anywhere anymore. We couldn’t cultivate fish nor grow crops on our only field. Aila took everything from us: our house in the tsunami water, our land, our fisheries, the food from our mouths and even our elder son. This is why we had to sell our son to feed the other four mouths. How many days could we live without food? Day after day we all had to starve. I was pregnant. I remember getting faint after several days of hunger. I don’t know where my son is now! I don’t know what they have done with that piece of my heart. I don’t know if I will ever meet him again or not! When I think of him, I become like an insane woman. Sometimes I feel like killing myself because I feel so guilty. But no one would ever understand the anguish of it if they do not go through having an empty pocket and a hungry stomach. With the money we saved, we managed to move to Dhaka last year. Now I work as a housemaid and my husband works as a porter at Shadarghat. Now we don’t have to starve anymore day after day but we can’t ever sleep happily anymore. Every day before we sleep we regret our loss. We think about our son. My husband cries loudly holding me and my two children. Almost every day we fight and cry before sleeping. My oldest daughter always asks me where her brother has gone. I can’t reply to anyone; instead I try to turn myself into stone again in order to go to work the next day.

_ Hasina Begum

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I poured my sweat and blood into building my house. I did it with my own hands. My wife and I worked hard every day so that we could make a home where we dreamed we could see out our days. Our children grew up there just like in our dreams. After so many happy years, one day like a nightmare, the river Jamuna took away our house. We never thought the river could come that close. Now I have only memories and nowhere to live. Isn’t life the most unpredictable thing?

 Everything happened in front of my eyes. We could not save anything except our lives. My wife’s wedding sari, my cherished radio and years of treasured belongings all went into the river. I was stunned that night when the calamity hit us.

That house was everything to me. I was a simple farmer; my life and heart were rooted in that land. But now it is all in the river. Now I have nothing except a plastic shed where seven of us have been trying to make do for the last couple of months. Now even drinking water is a problem because my water tube wall which cost one year of income from my crops, is also gone into the river. Now we drink the river water. We don’t have a kitchen nor a toilet. We cook under the open sky.

It will cost more than two or three hundred thousand taka to build a new home. When I can’t even collect food for my  family to eat, this much money is now a dream. In order for all of us to eat, my children had to stop going to school and have started working as maids in a villager’s house with their mother.

Though I know I will not get to return to my house, every day I come to the riverbank and try to mark the spot where my lost home might be now.

No one is coming to help people like us. It is getting worse every year. It’s a kind of war which has no value for anyone else other than the people who are fighting it and suffering every day for the rest of their lives.

_Shaha Ali

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I was a hawker of girls’ cosmetics in our village and married a beautiful happy girl who I fell in love with the first day I saw her. Twenty years before we were married she used to be one of my regular customers. She fell in love with me unconditionally and married me after dealing with a lot of problems with her family.

I am a poor hawker man, who loves his wife and daughter with his full heart, but as people say, this doesn’t fill your stomach. It is very hard for me to see innumerable pins on my daughter’s slippers and holes upon holes in my wife’s sari. I feel hopeless and a failure when I can’t feed them three times a day, when I can’t manage school fees for my daughter and when I can’t buy new clothes for my family for the Eid festival. I couldn’t do anything for my family. But they never complained about anything because poor people get used to it; they know that no one can cope with the power of nature.

For the last six months we have been really worried about what will happen if we will lose our house and land again. Where we will live? How we will continue to survive? We already lost everything four times in the river due to river erosion. We continued to buy land beside the river because it is cheaper.

This last time I intentionally collected more money to buy land in order to make our home away from the river and this village as we knew that the river would again sweep away everything we have and will again show her unkindness.

But nature is more clever than mankind and has bigger plans than we poor people. Last week she took everything we had away again. This time it was so rapid and so much crueler than before that I could not save anything. I could not even grab the money I was saving for my girl’s marriage, nor the money for buying the land on which we were planning to build our home.  I could not save my hawkers box which I have been carrying with me for 25 years; nor could I save my only fulcrum tool. We lost our crops, our cattle… everything.

The night the flood hit one part of our village completely collapsed and was submerged in the river in front of our eyes . Before we understood what was happening, everything went under water. No one could save anything without losing their lives. We could just save our lives by running far away, holding hands with our family members.

I don’t know in what way I have sinned in order to deserve being punished like this year after year. I don’t know where I will go with my young girl after being released from here. For the last two weeks we have been living here because of my wife’s sickness. My wife’s condition is getting worse day by day. I am a beggar now. And as a beggar, I am begging to my god to please not take my wife away from me. I just don’t want to lose her too.

_ Khairul Mia

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We have been born with the fate of uncertainty. Every year that we are alive, we live with the power of our fate. As each year passes by and we count ourselves fortunate; we count each new breath as good luck. The year of Cyclone Aila in 2009 was the curse of my life. We lost the only tree over our head. I lost my husband in the cyclone. No one could find the body of my husband for us to see him for one last time. Can you imagine how unfortunate we have been?

For the last six years I have been fighting uncountable complications with my four daughters. People say daughters are blessings, but for me daughters are dangers no matter how beautiful and moderate they are. There is danger in everything and  it’s worse when you are poor and homeless. I had never thought it would be  such a challenge to marry my beautiful daughters. Whenever I used to worry about them my husband would say, “Why are you so tense? The boys will fly to take those angels away.” But like everything else the salty water stole my daughters’ beauty.

I came here from Shatkhira, Munshiganj with my two unmarried daughters two years ago. Who wants to leave their birthplace and come here? But I have been obliged for the sake of my daughters’ lives and futures. My daughters had to walk uncountable miles every day for drinking water.  If it’s so difficult to find enough drinking water just to survive, can you imagine how hard it has been to obtain fresh water for my girls to showers? So they have showered in the salt water, which is very bad for our skin. It itches. It was a nightmare when my girls got their periods. I couldn’t bear their crying every month. The land gave us nothing but dead hopes. We couldn’t grow crops because of the cursed salt water. We couldn’t provide drinking water for our cattle. With no source of income, we couldn’t live there. Must I remain because it is my homeland even when my homeland is not able to feed me?

I moved to this rice field two years ago with others from my village. I had to take an advance of 50 thousand taka from my manager. With that money I repaid the loan I had taken to feed my children throughout the years since cyclone Aila. It may take me one more year to repay the loan to my manager. Our work here is very hard but at least I can drink water whenever I feel thirsty and I can feed my children every day.  We don’t need to starve day after day. I don’t have to listen to my children crying for water and food.  Sometimes at night I remember tearfully the joy of earlier days. But I force myself to go to sleep, in order to be ready the next day for the reality of life.

_ Parvin Akter

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I never thought even in my worst dreams that I would have to leave my land and move to Dhaka – but this is what I am about to do. But what we want is never always that which happens. I don’t know how I will live there in one restricted tiny room after living in my open-spaced village here. How will I breathe in that blocked room? But it is also not possible to live here in my village anymore.

My grandson Motaleb came from Dhaka last night to take me with him from this cursed village where I have been almost dying for the last 10 years. But I didn’t want to go to Dhaka or leave this place. My seven sons moved from our village after the severe cyclone to search for work and for living. We had a house of eight rooms. We were not a poor family but now you can call us beggars. We have nothing left after that extreme cyclone. That cyclone took thousands of people’s houses and lives. Everyone moved to different places from here.  Overnight middle-class families became beggars.

Luckily one of my sons saw a tide 8-10 feet high breaking a dam and coming right towards our house . He cried out, “We will die if we do not leave this place. Let’s leave the place”. We couldn’t take anything with us. We were holding trees with one hand and with their other hand my two sons helped me and saved my life. I saw everything was floating; cows, goats, ducks, chickens, trees, even people. Everything was floating away in front of me.  I can never forget this memory.

We are from the coastal area so I have seen a lot of cyclones during my lifetime of 70 years, but I never felt that worried. However, this time people were very worried. I have never seen this kind of destructive cyclone before. Usually water would come and go and we would mend the damage every year. But Cyclone Aila took everything from us. It is not possible for us to be like we were before.

My sons  tried to make me understand that nothing was left here for me to be able to live here alone. But I never accepted their impassioned insistence and I did not want to leave my homeland where I have been living my whole life. However, it is now impossible for me to live here alone with a lack of available food and sweet water. Drought, frequent floods and storms as well as the barbaric torture of jungle animals have made my life Hell and have caused health problems for me. Last month I asked my elder son to take me with them. Today I am leaving my homeland forever at this old age taking every good and bad memory with me. I don’t know how many days I will live but I know even after my death I will not return to this land again.

_ Hamida Begum

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I have no one. I am alone in this world now. For the last 10 years I have been living alone only remembering that day. For my one and only wrong decision, I lost my whole family in the horrifying 15 November Cyclone Sidr. I don’t know what I should call it – good luck or bad luck.  I am the only one in my family to have survived by holding onto the last tree in our village! I can’t forget how the next morning I was searching for my loved ones and lining up the dead bodies one by one. I lost my two daughters, my only son and my husband that night. I can’t forget losing everything; all my cattle were floating away like water lilies in the cyclone water.  The water took away everything from me.

I am from Pathorghata Borguna. There, every year we faced big and small cyclones. But in 2010 even in my worst dreams I never thought this would happen. My daughters asked me while holding onto me tightly several times “Ma, it’s a number 10 warning signal and they are announcing it again and again. Ma, we are feeling really afraid. Let’s go to the cyclone center.” But I was a foolish woman. I did not listen to them.  I did not listen to my husband either because I thought nothing would happen. I was feeling very lethargic and did not want to take everything with us to the cyclone center.  I thought like the many storms before, that the cyclone would pass and nothing would happen. For my obstinate decision of that cursed night I had to bury them alone the next day. I had to take out a loan from my villagers to bury my family members because I lost everything in the cyclone. I have only the sari I was wearing that night. I starved under a tree for several miserable nights.

I could not bear it, but I had to come here to search food in order to stay alive with my other villagers. When you are alive, your stomach hurts for food. For the sake of this stomach I had to come here. But it’s a very difficult job that I have been doing for the last 10 years in order to survive. But now I know there is nothing too difficult for the poor.  When coming here I took a 20-thousand taka advance from the owners and I have been returning this money for the last ten years. We get a very little amount of money: only 60 taka for a long day’s work when we finish drying one field of rice. Sometimes when it’s the rainy season or the sun doesn’t show up, it takes three to four days to finish drying one field of rice for 60 taka. The owners take the loan money out plus interest.  They give us rice but we have to buy vegetables from our money so we have to take out more loans from the owners. I became their slave for 20 thousand taka and this is how my life will end: working here day after day.

_ Fatema Begum

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My entire life had been spent on an island on the Brahmaputra River. I had never seen any vehicles in my 35 years of life, except for boats, ox carts and horse carts. Like me hundreds of women from these islands had never seen any modern vehicles. The men of the islands went out for necessary things but women didn’t need to go anywhere. I, myself, never imagined a city life could look like this. Last year for the first time I left my land in search of making a living with my complete family and came to Dhaka. We took out a loan to move here in the hope that our family could at least eat three meals a day. We had to rebuild our home 5 times before we decided it was time to move. Before coming here, we were surviving by eating a blend of wheat powder with river water once a day. Sometimes we ate a mix of rice and eggplant. If my husband could catch a fish from the river, it was royal food for my family.

I was born on the island of Shakhahatichor in Chilmari district, 400 miles away from Dhaka. Chilmari district has 6 unions, or councils but 4 out of 6 are now in the middle of the river. Our island is one of them. Life is becoming more difficult every year for the people of the islands. People are dying from starvation there. Nothing grows on our islands because of draught. People have nothing to do; no jobs for surviving. There are no agricultural activities for farmers. In recent decades our area has been afflicted by severe droughts. There were not many problems in the previous years because there was adequate water in the Brahmaputra River. Now the water does not flow. The mighty Brahmaputra is the lifeline for our agricultural and our domestic lives, but it is dying every day and taking thousands of lives with it.

Thousands of islanders are facing a serious food crisis, natural disasters and temperature problems. Every year from mid-September through mid-November, this crisis is extreme. We call the period Mora Kartik, meaning the months of death and disaster. The last time we were there we couldn’t even stay in our hut because of the intolerable cold and wind. Now the season and weather have become unpredictable. Last winter my father died in his old age because he couldn’t tolerate the biting, painful cold any longer. My father used to say: “It’s so cold that tigers are shaking.” He is not the only one; lots of old people die every year from these conditions. During winter this place becomes unbearable yet during summer the heat feels like Hell.

Even though we were hungry on our island, we never wanted to move to Dhaka. But we had nothing left but our two hands. Without food or a  job, these hands are incapable of feeding our mouths. So, I listened to my husband and came to Dhaka for work. My husband is a day laborer and I work as a cook in a canteen where laborers eat every day. I have to work hard the whole day for 3000 taka and food for myself. Sometimes I can take some leftovers for my children. Life is very hard here too but at least we have opportunities for income. We can eat three times a day. My children don’t have to starve for food anymore. That is what I have wanted my whole life.

_ Morjina Begum

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When danger comes, it comes in every conceivable way. Who would have thought that we would have to work here in this dirty dump yard? Fate has dragged me here. I am from a respectable family. Women of our family never used to work outside of the home ever. Now I work here with my whole family.

After cyclone Sidr, we were trying to fix our house but another cyclone, Aila, took the rest of it. We lost everything to the rising tide.  We lost our home, crops and now we are losing our dignity by doing this work every day. Everything we had is under water now. Now, except these hands, we have nothing left and are like beggars.

My father-in-law could not tolerate our situation and died from the grief of losing his home, land and property. My husband left me with my two daughters without saying anything and married a woman for money. I know he is living with his new wife in a nearby slum. I never thought that he could do this to me and to our two beloved daughters. How could he leave us like this? Once upon a time I had a family and a home. My husband could not eat if I did not cook the food myself. Now I know everything was a dream and the biggest lie ever.

I came here after taking a loan from villagers and selling some of my jewelry which I had been wearing my whole life. I took my mother-in-law with us. She is all alone now. How could I leave her? I thought if we eat, she will eat with us. Now I have four mothers; my own mother, my mother-in-law and my two beloved daughters. We are all working here and living in a rented tin shed room. We are working hard and repaying the loan every month. My daughters can’t go to school anymore. How can they? After working here the whole day in this smelly rubbish, no one allows us to sit beside them. Getting water is very tough. The whole night we have to wait in the line to take a bath, but washing and smelling the soap feels heavenly.

I passed class eight but my daughters can’t even pass primary school. There is no end to our troubles. I can’t tolerate seeing two older women working so hard every day. I can’t bear to see my innocent, beloved daughters  working in this dump yard from morning till night just to survive. I feel so depressed and feel like giving up sometimes. It’s better to die than seeing this misery in our lives. People throw broken glass and blades in the garbage; they never think there are people like me who have to work here. Those of you who threw that broken glass in the garbage need to know it cuts our feet. But it’s okay; I am accustomed to such pain. I forgot the last time when I smiled but the tears never stop rolling down from my eyes. We sit here and have our lunch. The smell of rubbish is nothing to us anymore. Nowadays our lives have become more rotten than this rotten dump yard.

_ Nurjahan Begum

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We are the people from north Bengal who lived on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. Each year we were the first in the country to endure the flooding, before floods came to other parts of the country.

We had become accustomed to flooding because we had experienced it all our lives and fought against the odds every year. But in 2010 the flooding was so sudden that it left us with a new shoreline. We survived for four days on the top of that shore but the next day, it too was underwater. After searching madly for a whole day for banana trees, my husband finally found five trees to make a raft. We tied it to our hut so that it did not float away and we moved our essentials onto the raft.

I never imagined that on this night my life was going to change forever. After finishing our dinner, we were resting on our raft sitting and holding each other so that we didn’t fall into the water. After having done a lot of work looking for materials and building the raft, we were tired. We were resting and I was breastfeeding our one-and-a-half-year-old girl. The whole night I was very concerned and was breastfed her for a long while. At the end of the night when it was almost dawn and I heard the sound of the azaan call of prayer. Then I heard the sound of something falling into the water.  For just one second I had not thought about my child and the next second she was no longer there.  I cried out wildly and jumped into the water. My husband also jumped in. We searched for her frantically. We were dipping in the water and crying loudly at the same time.  My husband was diving and calling her name “my Moyna, my Moyna, O Allah, my mother!” The current was so strong that it was pulling me away. After a while I fainted at the thought that I had lost my treasure; a baby that had taken seven years to conceive.  After that accident I became mentally-ill for five years. I had to have treatment in a mental hospital from 2010 to 2015. My mental health improved when I fell pregnant for the second time, 6 years later. But after Arafat  was born, I became terrified that I would lose my child again in the water. After seeing my mental condition, my husband brought me here by selling everything we had.

There is nothing called poor persons ‘luck’ just as there is no guarantee of a poor person’s life. We came to this railway slum last year. Life became even more perilous here in the slum than in our flooded village. I can’t leave my son for a single second because  trains come and go every 10 minutes. There is nowhere to move to from here because this slum is the cheapest in the city.

With the money we have we cannot go to any other slum. My husband works alone for us as a rickshaw driver. I cannot go to work – who will guard my son?  It does not matter if I do or don’t eat, but I can’t bear losing my child, my heart again.  If you haven’t gone through this, you wouldn’t understand the horrific pain when one loses that part of your heart. Life is hard for poor people when even nature treats us so poorly. It is nature that plays the most devastating role with poor people like us.  If this were not true then the floods would not have been so cruel as to take so much from me.

_ Rita Begum

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We woke up in terror after the roof of our house was swept away, and moments later we were chest deep in rising waters. The water came in so quickly and it got so high that it almost reached the ceiling of our house. My parents jumped into the water to try to save the cattle but could not. We lost everything in the cyclone. We escaped with just our lives from there seven years ago.

There were between 100 and 150 families along the riverbank. All their homes were washed away just like ours. We lost everything. We lost our boats, our cattle, and our land was flooded with salt water. All the land is under water now. We had to move very quickly and we couldn’t take anything except the clothes we were wearing. We were left with nothing just like refugees. Today, boats pass over the place where our land was; where I spent all of my childhood like a dream.

I started my job as a sex worker seven years ago here in Dhaka City, when my mother committed suicide for the unbearable pain of our losses and my father fled leaving me to look after my four siblings. My little sisters and brothers don’t know what I do till midnight. Sometimes it’s very hard to explain to them why I can’t return at night to them. But this is the only job I could find that would allow me to feed my family. They wait the whole night for me so that I am there to hold them beside me while we all sleep. My only aim now is to feed my siblings and give them a better life. Seeing them going to school every day fills me with a lot of pride. I can take care of them till the evening, after that they take care of each other.

I have been pregnant several times and have had to have abortions. I always prayed to God, “Please don’t allow this pain to happen to even my worst enemy”.

_ Rubina

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We came to Dhaka from Gabura, Munshiganj, in the Sathkhira area two months ago and now we are living on the streets. There was nothing left in our area except hunger and uncertain livelihoods – we were surrounded by salty water and drought ravaged lands. In order to come here, I had to I had to sell my only pair of gold rings that I got from my mother-in-law which is a symbol prestige and value in our family. When our life is valueless, how is it possible to protect our values? I sold my prestige to feed my family.

I never thought my life would turn into Hell soon after that first cyclone. Hundreds of people left our villages after cyclone Aila due to lack of food, sweet water and a secure life. But we did not leave then. We did not want to leave our forefathers’ land, showing disrespect. But we had no choice. There was nothing left there. No opportunities for surviving. You could not even beg from anyone. Everybody became so poor, nobody had anything to give you.

We suffered terribly in winter and during the monsoon season in our broken hut in our village. My husband used to sell fish in the local market and somehow used to manage to get us one meal a day. When he would manage this one meal, my son used to burst into happiness and I would burst into tears, thankful that we were avoiding starvation. But there were many days when all my son wanted was some rice and I had none to give him.  In such unimaginable misery, our hungry stomachs pushed us to come here to search for work and survive.

My husband started riding a rickshaw a few days ago. It was very difficult to get the rickshaw for rent because owners won’t rent you one if they don’t know you. We knew no one in Dhaka. After several weeks, we got somebody from our area that helped us to rent the rickshaw from the garage. Before this, we begged on the street in order to survive with our children.

We are still living on the streets as we can’t afford to rent a room in a slum.  The rooms are more money than my husband can  earn in a day by riding the rickshaw. I know no work other than doing household chores. I am now searching for a job as a maid but like my husband, I need someone to help me.

_ Salina Begum

 

 

 

 

 

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